Jan 30, 2012

How I Turned a New Page

Fantasy novels have been the bane of my existence since the creation of my blog. Why is that? you ask. Well, maybe bane is a bit over reaching but when it came to fantasy novels I had a huge road block keeping me from reading them. For me fantasy novels are often challenging because of the level of trust a reader must leave in the hands of an author.  The world can be so unknown with character names that are spelled weird and names of places that are insane to pronounce.

It is odd, because at it's core, there is something inherently appealing about fantasy concepts. What little girl doesn't go through the unicorn stage, or love fairies? But I often found that what I was reading didn't match the pictures on my wall. Or if they did, I couldn't read long enough to get to those parts. And since then I have tried to avoid fantasy books. I even resented when people recommended them because I was so convinced that these books weren't for me and never could be.

I can point to two novels that have significantly changes my views on fantasy fiction. Though I can't point to the things in myself that may have changed. I am sure it is a combination of finding the right book for my interests and maturing in some way and trying to be more open minded. Now that I am reading more science fiction and other speculative fiction, I have decided it may be time to expand my horizons a little more.

The first of the two transforming novels is Homeland by R. A. Salvatore. This book is by far the most fantastical book I have ever read. It wasn't some sort of crossover or fantasy book with an interesting premise that I could handle. Homeland was a pretty good amalgamation of many of the things that put me off about fantasy books. But the politics of this broken society made it easy for a love to dystopian to enjoy it. I also listened to this book as opposed to read it. I found that audiobooks may be the best way for me to deal with this genre of book. I still get the story without having to struggle over some of the words. Menzobarenzan was dark and brutal, and easy for me to fall in love with.  Finally I found a place I knew well in a fantasy novel. Drizzt's journey, like many through dystopia, is about the search for hope. He has a deep desire fgor things to be different from what they are. I didn't read Homeland because I thought I would find these dystopian elements in it, I just happened and I am sure there are more fantasy books out there waiting for me to read them that will also surprise me in this way.

The second novel probably impacted me even more than the first. Partly because I actually read it, instead of listening to it, and partly because there was nothing dystopian in the novel.  Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon has been one of my favorite books for over a year now. Previous to that you would have never been able to convince me that one of my favorites was a fantasy book.  The world of Silver Phoenix seemed more approachable by the Asian overlay for me. I accepted it was "foreign" and didn't resent it as a result. Even though Ai Ling was faced with situations that showed her weakness, she was not weak.  She is one of the strongest female characters I have yet to read in young adult literature. Cindy Pon created a balanced character who was able to maintain her femininity. Even with the guidance of a magical force it is Ai Lings's bravery that is her real source of power. Silver Phoenix is a hero's quest laced with the whimsical elements that made childhood magical. This feeling has made me want to find more fantasy books and see if they can create the same feeling. For the first time in my reading life I am actually searching out fantasy books to read.



Since reading Silver Phoenix I have been able to talk often with Cindy Pon on Twitter. She is such an amazing person who is willing to share herself with her readers. She is generous with information and quick to answer any question or chime in on a topic that interests her. She also doesn't hesitate to share and talk about other books she has loved reading. I am using these books that she has mentioned both recently and in the past as the start to my fantasy TBR pile. It can be a slow process because my bias is still present, it just isn't a brick wall anymore.

3 comments:

  1. Oh, this is a great post! I absolutely agree that when reading fantasy, you have to leave your trust in the author, but that's kind of what I like about it. I love seeing what other people have imagined and dreamed up, and I love getting lost in worlds that are new to me. Plus, I enjoy seeing how characters deal with these worlds. Awesome post, Megan!

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  2. I surprises me that you aren't more of a fantasy fan. I do hope you continue breaking through the wall and find more you like! They are usually my very most favorite books.

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  3. Two of my favorite things, R. A. Salvatore's Drizzt books and everything Cindy Pon, all in one post!

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